ORLANDO, Fla. – Former Arizona Wildcat Andre Iguodala waited for the clock to tick down, took a few dribbles to his right and let go a high-arching jumper.
Swish! The Magic were stunned, their fans silenced.
For the Philadelphia 76ers, it was the sweet sound of stealing home-court advantage.
Iguodala made a 22-foot jumper with 2.2 seconds remaining, and the 76ers rallied from an 18-point deficit to beat Orlando 100-98 in Game 1 of their opening-round playoff series Sunday.
He then stood at halfcourt waving his hands as teammates joined him to celebrate.
“We won one more game than people thought we would win,” Iguodala said. “I was pretty amped up.”
Iguodala had 20 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, and Louis Williams scored 18 to help the Sixers beat the Magic for the first time in four tries this season – and when it mattered most.
Hedo Turkoglu’s fadeaway 3-pointer missed at the buzzer, and Magic fans stood in disbelief before filing out quietly.
Iguodala had missed two free throws with about a minute left before more than redeeming himself with the game-winning shot.
“He really made up for it, didn’t he?” 76ers coach Tony DiLeo said, smiling. “He’s like our secret weapon.”
Dwight Howard had a career playoff-high 31 points and 16 rebounds, and rookie Courtney Lee scored 18 for the Magic. It was the biggest lead the Magic blew all season, topping the loss on Oct. 31 to Memphis when they were ahead by 15 points. Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is Wednesday night in Orlando.
“I was very surprised at the effort,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “I was surprised not only for our lack of intensity defensively, but I was really surprised with our lack of focus.”
The 76ers came into the playoffs losing six of their last seven games but were able to put that skid in the past the same way they did last year, when they won Game 1 at Detroit. The Pistons eventually took the series in six games.
Orlando’s inside-out game seemed as if it would too much for Philadelphia
Lee’s shooting and Howard’s muscle highlighted a 15-3 run in the third quarter that built an 18-point lead. With Howard banging on the inside, the Sixers were forced to throw double-teams at him, allowing the Magic’s perimeter players to break free.
When they did, Howard again took charge.
Rim-rocking dunks, smooth hook shots and even some uncharacteristic crisp free throws by the Magic’s center capped the spurt. The only time Philadelphia actually slowed Howard was when Samuel Dalembert inadvertently scratched both his eyes and was called for a foul. Howard said his eyes were pulsating after the game but shouldn’t be a problem.
“I got backslapped,” Howard said.
Maybe that was all Philadelphia needed.
Howard made the pair of free throws to put Orlando ahead 79-61 and then went to the locker room with a towel to his face. He returned to the game after a few minutes.
The Sixers rolled off eight straight points in the fourth and eventually tied the game at 91 with fewer than four minutes left on a layup by Andre Miller. After Howard’s dunk over Theo Ratliff put the Magic ahead 98-95 with 49.1 seconds remaining, Donyell Marshall answered with a 3-pointer – and 11 points in the four – for Philadelphia and Iguodala did the rest.
• Chicago at Boston, 5 p.m., TNT. Bulls lead series 1-0
•Dallas at San Antonio, 7:30 p.m., TNT. Mavericks lead series 1-0